Pageant of the History of Hayling
Place: The Grounds of Mengeham House (Hayling Island) (Hayling Island, Devon, England)
Number of performances: 2
24–25 August 1949
Both performances were held in the afternoon.
Name of pageant master and other named staff
- Stage Manager [Pageant Master]: Snell, Captain Ivan
- Producers: Mrs Cutler, Mr. V. Dougherty, Mrs. Frith, Rev. J.W. Hollinshead, Miss Young
- Music: Mrs Ivan Snell
- Costumes: Miss M. Swann
- Dances: Miss Page
- Wardrobe: Mrs Ayres, Mrs Bicknell, Miss Michell
- Secretary: Mrs Tucker
- Treasurer: Miss Birt
Names of executive committee or equivalent
Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)
- Snell, Captain Ivan
- Shakespeare, William
A scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Names of composers
- Snell, Mrs Ivan
Numbers of performers200
Numbers of performers exceeded 200, though exact figure is unknown.
Object of any funds raised
- Grandstand: Not Known
- Grandstand capacity: n/a
- Total audience: n/a
Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest
Episode I. The Stone Age
The text of this synopsis and those that follow is taken from the book of words.2
In this Pageant we are going to depict some scenes from the past history of Hayling…The first historical event which we know took place on this Island is that in the Stone Age, a Flint Maker and his family lived here and carried on his trade. When certain excavations were being made in the garden of Mengeham House, the remains of a Flint Maker’s workshop were discovered, with a number of arrow heads, knives, scarpers and other flint objects.
The old Flint Maker, after looking anxiously round to be sure that there are no enemies about, comes out of his hut and proceeds to look over his stock of flints. Then out come his son’s wives and their children, and gather wood for their fire to cook their evening meal. The two sons, who have been fishing and hunting… bring their catch from the creek and give it to the women to cook, returning to the creek to dry their nets, which they have made themselves out of hides of animals. Preparations go on for the meal, when suddenly is seen the figure of a man, much feared in the district for his brutality and thieving habits, creeping among the trees. He seizes one of the women, who screams and struggles. The old Flint maker rushes up and picking up his heavy stick, fells the rascal with a blow. The sons, hearing the commotion, hurry back, and seeing the woman is safe, carry off the body and dump it in the bushes. After which all return to the hut and partake of their meal.
Episode 2. The Fish Market
In our scene, the fishermen have gone out early with their lines and nets, and now return with a good catch. One of the fishermen gives the call ‘Fish-ayoy-ayoy’ to warn their wives and the villagers that they have fish for sale. The women come hurrying down, some to buy fish and some because merry-making usually follows the market. The first to arrive, as always, is an old woman, who acts as mistress of the market. She is quickly followed by others and a great deal of haggling and bargaining ensues. Young girls from the village come down and, the market being over, try to get the men to join them in a dance. However the men are afraid to leave their baskets, so the girls dance alone and then all troop off to the village to continue the merrymaking far into the night.
Episode 3. Queen Emma [c.1045]
Queen Emma (mother of Edward the Confessor), owner of Hayling Island, is arrested by Godwin, Earl of Kent and Chancellor, and Robert Archbishop of Canterbury, who imprison her and murder her son. The King was mollified and wished to release her, but Godwin insists that she must prove her innocence by walking nine steps over red hot plough shares. The Queen spent the night before this praying to St. Swithon. She is led forth by a priest, calling on God as her witness, but passes the ordeal without injury. The King prostrates himself and begs forgiveness. The Queen forgives him, but demands he must expiate his fault by suffering nine strokes. After which, the King decrees that the Chancellor must give three of his estates to the Church of St. Swithon. The Queen transfers nine, including Hayling, and all repair to the Church of St. Swithon.
Episode 4. The Abbot of Jumieges
The Abbot had been granted the manor and priory of Hayling by William the Conqueror, and had built a church, which had been washed away in the great inundation of 1333. Due the loss of income, and rumours the Monks had abandoned the Island for a life of pleasure on the mainland, he sent over a young man, Beaufort, to report. The Prior and Monks are drinking fine wines and eating good food when Beaufort arrives and rebukes him, demanding Jumieges’ dues. The Prior blames the flood, then invites Beaufort to partake of some refreshment, and the latter, having become mellowed by good wine proceeds to take a more lenient view of things. They retire to the Manor house, and the question of dues is forgotten.
Episode 5. The Visit of the Earl of Arundel
This episode is a scene of a ceremonial visit, in the Elizabethan period, by the Earl of Arundel to the Squire of Hayling, Sir John Falconer. After the little ceremony, at which the customary rose is presented, a short scene from Will Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is acted. The episode closes with children dancing and making merry.
Episode 6. The Smugglers 
Two young men, Ralph Rogers and Peter Crasler, who had left the navy and returned to Hayling where they experienced destitution until falling in with the notorious smuggler, Will Watch. Having become successful smugglers, the lads were finally accepted by the islanders and married two local girls. After the government put a bounty on smuggler’s head, Peter turned King’s evidence. Ralph swore if he returned to Hayling he would kill him. Peter returns with redcoats, and though implored by his wife, Ralph took a gun and stalked Peter. He fires on a figure in the darkness, which turns out to be his wife, endeavouring to encourage Ralph to leave. He rushes to her side, but is surrounded by soldiers who carry him off.
Episode 7. Opening of Bridge 
Our seventh and last episode shows the opening of the bridge to the mainland. Mr Padwick, the then Lord of the Manor of Hayling, spent much time and money in promoting the Bill through Parliament. In 1824 the bridge was formally opened by the Duke of Norfolk. The chief characters concerned had previously dined well at the Bear Inn, Havant, and naturally it was a great occasion for the Islanders who turned out in full force for the ceremony.
Key historical figures mentioned
- Emma [Ælfgifu] (d. 1052) queen of England, second consort of Æthelred II, and second consort of King Cnut
- Edward [St Edward; known as Edward the Confessor] (1003x5–1066) king of England
- Edith [Eadgyth] (d. 1075) queen of England, consort of Edward the Confessor
- Godwine [Godwin], earl of Wessex (d. 1053) magnate
- Robert of Jumièges [Robert Champart] (d. 1052/1055) archbishop of Canterbury
- Howard, Thomas, fourteenth earl of Arundel, fourth earl of Surrey, and first earl of Norfolk (1585–1646) art collector and politician
- Howard, Bernard Edward, twelfth duke of Norfolk (1765–1842) aristocrat
Newspaper coverage of pageant
West Sussex Gazette
Book of words
- Pageant of the History of Hayling. Hayling, 1949.
Other primary published materials
References in secondary literature
Archival holdings connected to pageant
- Hampshire Record Office, Winchester, Copy of the Script, Top 154/1/12
Sources used in preparation of pageant
- Shakespeare, William. A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Pageants on islands, such as the Isle of Wight (1907), generally present their relationship to the rest of the country in a different way from a mainland town or city, even if that island is in name only, separated from the mainland by a few hundred metres of muddy beach, cut off at high tide. Hayling lies on the south coast of England a couple of miles east of Portsmouth. The Hayling Pageant, though small, showed the island’s history up to the end of its effective independence in 1824, when a bridge was built to the mainland, gradually changing the outlook of the island and particularly its economy from fishing and salt-making to tourism. A railway was opened to the island from Havant in 1867 and the population grew from 122 households in 1851 to over 5500 in 1950.3
The pageant was ‘inspired by the Women’s Institute and developed by the organising abilities of Capt. Ivan Snell and Mrs. Frith’.4 Ivan Snell had formerly been a leading London magistrate at Marylebone Police Court. Referred to as ‘London’s tallest magistrate’, Snell had become a sensation with the press for his defence of the (possibly innocent) murderess Edith Thompson in 1923, and latterly for his often outspoken pronouncements against heavy-handed police action.5 The Snells owned Mengeham House where they hosted events ranging from amateur dramatics (both were keen amateur actors) to summer camps for troubled young offenders.6
As with many of the pageants held in the years after World War II, the Hayling Pageant largely dispensed with kings and aristocrats to present a social history of the local population over many centuries, focusing on the difficulties and continuities of eking out a living as fishermen. One of the most interesting scenes is the presentation of Stone Age life on the island, based on local excavations at the house and across the island. In fact, on the previous week, the West Sussex Gazette reported the discovery of prehistoric human remains at a lime quarry, discovered by boys from Chichester Boys’ High School and R.C. Sherriff, author of the famous First World War drama Journey’s End (1929).7 The pageant scene was remarkably accurate, and may have drawn on Jacquetta and Christopher Hawkes’s bestselling archaeology book Prehistoric Britain (1943), which had done much to fuel popular interest in stone-age Britain.
Subsequent pageant scenes present the everyday life of a small island community, punctuated only rarely by visits of nobles such as the Earl of Arundel and the Duke of Norfolk. The scene with the most historical figures, that of Queen Emma’s trial, did not in fact take place on the island, but is linked to the place because the event led Hayling to be transferred to the Church of St Swithon. The visit and reception of the Earl of Arundel in Episode 5 closely mimics the visit by Elizabeth I that featured in many other pageants (the monarch did not visit the island). There is an undercurrent of defiance to authority, evidenced in Episode 4, where Beaufort visits the island to uncover wrongdoings by the high-living monks and is deflected from his mission after being plied with fine wines, and Episode 6 romanticizes the life of smugglers, telling the tragic story of two friends turned enemies. The story was almost certainly taken from Richard Scott’s A Topographical and Historical Account of Hayling Island (1823) and appears to be a relatively accurate depiction of events.8
The judgment of the local press was that the pageant ‘proved an outstanding success’, with attendances exceeding ‘the highest expectations.’9 However, no subsequent pageants were put on in Hayling and the tradition of pageantry largely died out in the county as a whole in the second half of the twentieth century. The old bridge to the island (which featured in the final episode) was replaced by a new concrete bridge in 1955.10
- West Sussex Gazette, 1 September 1949, 3.
- Pageant of the History of Hayling (Hayling, 1949).
- Information taken from 1851 Census, accessed 31 January 2016 http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/census/table_page.jsp?tab_id=GB1851POP2_M%5b1%5d&u_id=10211682&show=DB and http://www.localhistories.org/hayling.html
- West Sussex Gazette, 1 September 1949, 3.
- Sheffield Independent, 30 September 1930, 6; Taunton Courier, 21 June 1933, 2.
- Portsmouth Evening News, 6 November 1936, 11. See also, Times, 2 September 1958, 13.
- West Sussex Gazette, 18 August 1949, 3.
- http://haylingu3a.org.uk/smuggling-in-the-portsmouth-area-in-the-18th-century/, accessed 26 January 2016.
- This was the assessment of the West Sussex Gazette.
- http://www.localhistories.org/hayling.html, accessed 26 January 2016.
How to cite this entry
Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Pageant of the History of Hayling’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1289/